Monday, January 27, 2014

2 Updates To Previous Posts

Though you might not believe it, I actually have a life. I don't just sit around in my basement, blogging all day and night.  Occasionally, I do stuff that has nothing to do with this blog.  Such is the case today, and that's why this blog post is going to be short and sweet.

Update #1:  A regular blog-reader informed me that everything relating to the Danish Championships, including results and photos, can be found here:  Link to Danish Championship Website

Photo Credit: Bent Hjarbo. There's nobody we know in this photo.  I just liked the picture.
Update #2: Mackenzie's U23 team has traveled from Dobbiaco, Italy to Val di Fiemme, Italy.  Mackenzie's first race will be a skate sprint on Wednesday.  She even alerted me to the presence of some photos from her trip. Thanks, Mackenzie! Here's a picture:
Mackenzie and Rosie Frankowski looking for trouble in Cortina d'Ampezzo.  Fortunately for everyone, that horse isn't going anywhere.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dolomite Training Camp

Lately, we haven't seen Mackenzie's smiling face at our UAA Ski Team practices, and it makes us sad.  But she's probably in a better place.  No, I don't mean something bad happened to Mackenzie!  I just mean it's been raining here in Anchorage since she left us for those majestic pink granite towers of the Italian Dolomites, so she's not missing much around here when it comes to skiing conditions.  I haven't heard boo from Mackenzie since she left town, but I did have a nice conversation with her parents a couple days ago at the Dena'ina Center, and they assured me that she's having the time of her life over there at the US Ski Team's pre-U23 World Champs training camp in Dobbiaco, Italy!

None of the UAA Ski Team Blog staff were able to tear themselves away from the latest Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber news on TMZ long enough to actually go to Italy and file a report ourselves, but we did find a copy of this spycam video, slipped under the Blog HQ back door in the middle of the night, which purports to show Mackenzie in the midst of some classic intervals on the Dobbiaco racing trails.  Check out the screen capture below and decide for yourself if it's really her.

The word on the street is the team will be leaving Dobbiaco (AKA Toblach) on Monday to make the drive through the mountains to Val di Fiemme for the WCs.

Danish Norway

Here at UAA Ski Team Blog World Headquarters, our staff of journalists, researchers and pundits makes a concerted effort to focus our attention on the current events regarding the team.  But there’s only so much we can write about the everyday hard work that goes into making this team what it is and occasionally, at one of our daily 7AM staff meetings, a writer will want to take on an investigative piece about something related to the team, but not directly concerning day-to-day team business.  Such was the case this morning, when our littlest cub reporter piped up with the idea that he wanted to do a preview of our Danish friend Lasse’s last weekend of racing as an elite skier. 

But with a little research, we found that we didn’t have to send one of our staff to Europe because the Danish Ski Federation already wrote about it, so we can just read their article at: Link to the Danish Federation's article

In case your Danish is a little rusty I’ll paraphrase the article.  The title asks “Who will win this year’s Danish Championships?”  And the text of the article basically says “Lasse Moelgaard-Nielsen will.”  The article goes on to say that Denmark had two elite athletes going head to head to make the Olympic Team this year, but the quota only allows for one athlete, meaning Martin Moeller will go to the Olympics and Lasse will race in the Danish Championships (being held in Norway) before starting law school next month.  The article continues to say that Lasse has gotten himself into Olympic-candidate form, and will now surely be motivated to put the rest of the field in their place at the Danish Championships.

Later, the article goes on to mention a favorite in the women’s race at the Danish Championships: Theresia Schnurr.  Theresia recently graduated from UAF, and will also be starting graduate school in Copenhagen soon.  What better excuse for a little trip to Norway before graduate school begins than the Danish Championships?

Stay tuned for our next article in which we ask the question:  Why hasn’t Mackenzie been showing up at ski practice lately?!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Alaska Is Known For More Than Its Fish

I frequently travel to western Alaska for work, and I never get tired of the beautiful landscapes, nature, and people I see in that part of the world. I've seen a hopeless lone caribou surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves, huge brown bears catching salmon, and tens of thousands of fur seals lounging comfortably on the beach during a winter Bering Sea storm.  But earlier this week I saw something totally unexpected.

Unalaska / Dutch Harbor is known as one of the biggest fishing ports in the world. Only 3,500 people live there, but it's regularly the largest fish exporting port in North America by volume, and often by value. If you've ever eaten a fish stick, it probably came from Dutch Harbor.  And of course the port is known for its king crab fishery. But I guess the wave of marijuana legalization laws in states across this country must have spurred a new industry in this remote community in the Aleutian Islands. With regular 100+ mph winds, this is a place that's too stormy even to grow trees; I can't believe they're growing tropical plants.  So if they're not exporting... they must be importing?  I don't know, that's an awful big boat!

This is usually the part where the flight to Unalaska starts getting REALLY bumpy.
Here's the ship I saw anchored in Broad Bay yesterday, with one of Makushin Volcano's cinder cones in the background.

In case you didn't catch it, here's a clearer view of the ship.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Lukas!

Today is Lucky's birthday!

In some quarters, as you may know, "birthday spankings" are a tradition - a way to have a little lighthearted fun with the birthday boy or birthday girl.  But on the UAA Ski Team we take it a whole 'nother level, with a full-on beatdown of the birthday boy.  We figure if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger, and you'll be just that much tougher in the final kilometers of a hard-fought mass-start college race.  Lucky took his beating today with grace and style, and he'll have a couple nice war wounds to show for it over the next couple weeks.
Somehow, he looked a lot more banged up in person than he does in this photo.
(Disclaimer: he actually did this to himself and the rest of us had nothing to do with it.)

Monday, January 20, 2014


The UAA ski coaches were nice enough to let me race in the team's time trial at Kincaid Park on Saturday morning, but as soon as I crossed the finish line I realized I had nothing to do for the rest of the weekend, so I jumped on a flight to Lillehammer, Norway to watch the Norwegian championships relay on Sunday.  I knew Synnøve's old team (NTNU) would be racing, and I thought I might be able to scout out some new talent at the event.  I'm back in Anchorage now and I have to say that what I saw in that race in Norway shocked and flabbergasted me.

Here's Synnøve in her NTNU-issue team jacket during a UAA team practice last fall. (I keep these kinds of pictures handy for blog situations such as this.)

And here's Synnøve's old NTNU teammate, Anette Kleppestø, not wearing the NTNU "condom suit" at the Norwegian national championships. 
Everyone knows the NTNU women's team is full of mischief; a gang of delinquents and bad seeds. But this time, they took it a little too far. I guess Synnøve's old teammates thought it would be funny if they left the "condom suits" at home (NRK's verbiage, not mine) and wore skirts, heavy sweaters and scarves instead in the relay.  Naturally, this created one of the greatest scandals in modern times for Norway, and the Norwegian chief of sport for Nordic skiing was called upon to answer to the press about the scandal. Åge Skinstad said what any right-thinking individual would say about this slap in the face of the national sport.  He basically called it a travesty, a sham and a mockery... a traveshamockery!

It's a good thing Synnøve's here with us at UAA, and not in Norway where she'd likely be getting her name dragged through the mud even as I write this.  You can read about all the details below, and you can even log in to the NRK website and give your own opinion about the whole situation:

Click here for all the sordid details and your chance to give Åge Skinstad a piece of your mind!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meet the Freshman - Synnøve Bruland

Fans of the UAA Ski Team have been sending in fan mail, calling, faxing and e-mailing me for months, asking the same damn question every time:  When are we going to get to see an interview with Synnøve Bruland?!  It's gotten so bad I've had to change my mailing address, e-mail address, fax number and phone number because these people are bothering me at all hours of the day and night, demanding to see Synnøve's freshman interview. Well, it hasn't been so easy, you know? The girl is secretive and elusive, and on the occasions when I've asked, she's told me she "doesn't do interviews with amateur journalists."

But I guess the Utah sun must have softened her position on granting interviews to amateurs, because I got her to open up and say a few words here:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This Is Why We Don't Bother With Chairlifts

I mentioned in an earlier post that it was windy during our races over the weekend. How windy, you ask? This windy:

Bridger Bowl Wind on Saturday (video link)

I overheard the UAA coaches telling some of the skiers before their races, "If the wind is behind you, try to stand up tall and let the wind blow you down the trail, and if a big gust hits you from the front, don't get discouraged - try to do a double-pole / tuck kind of thing so it doesn't push you back too far..."  They weren't kidding.

In case you want to know how far Bridger Bowl is from the start/finish stadium for our races, it's this far:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Now We're Flying!

I’m sitting next to Pati on the airplane back to Alaska at the end of my first RMISA road trip in 22 years. Skiing the college circuit was my favorite time as a racer, and this trip has done nothing to diminish my good memories of the NCAA racing scene. It’s a competitive field in the West; you need to beat some fast skiers to win these races, but the sportsmanship and camaraderie is not compromised by the rivalry between schools and between athletes.  Étienne said something to me yesterday that confirmed that the RMISA's competitive yet sportsmanlike spirit is alive and strong.  He said, “These are only my first races, but already the guys from the other schools are coming to me and introducing themselves, and if they’ve already finished their race they’re cheering for me when I pass them on the trail.  And their coaches are giving me some splits when I pass them.  I don’t even need to go to them; they’ve come to me and made me feel welcome on the circuit, and I think that’s really special.”

We finished the trip in style today, with a couple of wins.  The men skied first. At the 1km split, Lucky was in the lead by a few seconds. He then proceeded to make it a boring race, steadily gaining a couple seconds per kilometer on the rest of the field over the next nine kilometers, to win the race by twenty seconds.
Marine must have been watching and learning from Lukas, because she did essentially the same thing as him in her race.  We had her tied for the lead at the 1km mark.  At 4km she was leading by nine seconds.  At 6km she was leading by eleven seconds.  At 9km it was eighteen seconds. At the finish it was 22 seconds.  Personally, I think Marine was a little confused that her first NCAA win came last week in a classic race. Marine thinks she is a better skater, so I think she wanted to set things right today by getting her first skating win.  Even before the race, Marine looked ready to win it. I could just tell... I wasn’t surprised at all as I saw the split times going steadily in her favor.

Lukas was so fast today that it was only possible to take blurry pictures of him. Here he is after catching yesterday's winner, Moritz Madelener, and pulling him to a third place finish.


Andrew again - quite photogenic today.



Mackenzie again


The Swiss are known for one thing:  Their technical innovation, their downhill skiing skills, and cheese. Cheese has nothing to do with this photo, of course.  But don't ever say Pati is not an innovator.  While the rest of us are still using the boring old "snowplow" to scrub speed, Pati is taking it to a whole 'nother level by turning the snowplow on it's head - a totally cutting-edge technique that probably won't even gain acceptance here in America for another two or three years at least.

Pati skiing uphill - using the "old traditional methods".

Today's results.  No caption necessary.  But as you can see, I've added one anyway...

But not for this one.

Today's podium, minus third place.

All three women showed up for the women's awards.  Nice.

Three hours after the end of the race, we're at the airport trying to figure out where to go next.

After our arrival in Anchorage tonight, the team will spend a few days at home before driving down to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula for a pair of Besh Cup races over the weekend.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cookies in Bed

Today we raced a classic race at Bohart Ranch, about 30 minutes north of Bozeman. We skied on new snow in heavy wind, far above 0 degrees celcius in some kind of Chinook. Most everyone in the race used no-wax "zero" bases. Results are here: Follow this link to the race results!

That's Bridger Bowl in the background
Pati (This is the exact moment she realized she'd forgotten to put her skis on.)
Coaches Andrew and Nicole late at night, hard at work.
Nicole moves fast, not only while skiing, but while ski-teching, too.
The view from my blogging station (foreground) of the team stretching station (background).
Which one is Ernie and which is Bert?  For a hint, check out the video below, paying careful attention to the pronunciation of the word "again", and I think you'll have your answer.
Étienne and Davis.... Ernie and Bert... Truthfully, I see very little difference.


Hear ye!  Hear ye!  I bring news from the UAA Ski Team!  Based on her strong performances this week at the US National Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah, Mackenzie Kanady has been named to America's 2014 Under-23 World Championship Team!

When UAA ski racers go to Europe, they usually go to Italy.  And when they go to Italy, their destination is always a valley in Italy's Dolomite Mountains called Val di Fiemme. This is the valley where Nevio Zeni (UAA Ski Team 2012) comes from.  It's the valley where Lasse Moelgaard-Nielsen competed in the World Championships last winter. It's where Patricia, Marine and Lukas spent the middle part of this December at the World University Games. It's where Davis goes on vacation any time he travels to Europe. And now Mackenzie will travel to Val di Fiemme for the U23 World Championships at the end of January. So if Mackenzie needs any information about the competition venue and surroundings, she can ask just about anybody associated with the UAA Ski Team to get her answers.

Congratulations, Mackenzie!

Mackenzie edges out the kid on the left to make the U23 team. It could have gone either way.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hot Air

Are you like me? Do you love to listen to nerds talking about ski racing for an entire hour at a time? If so, here's a fantastic opportunity to get those sweet sounds you crave! I was invited as a guest on Alaska Public Radio yesterday to discus the local citizen ski racing scene in Alaska. If you truly have nothing better to do for an hour, you can listen to the broadcast here (the audio is the little box right above the downhill video from Hatcher Pass near the bottom of the page):

KSKA Radio Show

Go ahead, give it a listen.  You deserve a little treat today.

The American West

I'm on my first RMISA road trip in 22 years, and I have to say it feels damn good to be back.

We finished up our week of racing in Utah with the 20k and 30k races on Wednesday. UAA had solid results and was the second best Nordic team in the RMISA.  You can find out all the details at: Utah Invitational Results Here!

We hit the road yesterday, leaving Utah behind us and pulling into Bozeman, Montana about seven hours later. Today was a day of ski testing and waxing; tomorrow we race 5km and 10km individual-start classic events.

We rented our 2014 road fleet last week.  We won't return the rigs until mid-March.
Headed north

Here's UAA Ski Team Headquarters - Bozeman Division.
And here's the plaque in front of our team house.

Preparing for a training session at Bohart Ranch.
It was a bit breezy in the Start/Finish area...
...breezy enough that our ski bag blew away from us several times and the coach had to chase it down....
...but we came up with a solution; test skis as anchoring stakes.